Gillaval Glas Round Attempt aka ‘The Germans’

20 07 2012

While staying on the Isle of Harris (Outer Hebrides) to walk some of the superb mountains there, I shared a B&B in Tarbert with a German couple. They were quite young and very pleasant company – she spoke good English but he knew very little. The next morning we were at breakfast discussing German’s apparent similarity to Welsh when they asked me what my plans were for the day. I said there was a nice round of mountains on the Lewis border – the Gillaval Glas round.

Harris-Gillaval Glas round

They told me they were ‘hikers’ back home so, as I was feeling a little nervous about my lone walk on mountains I didn’t know, I asked them if they would like to accompany me. I explained there were four mountains in total in a horseshoe from the road. They readily agreed to come with me and rushed off to get ready.

Near the B&B

Of course, as we drove to the start of the walk at Bunabhainneadar, the weather started to worsen from sunny and clear to dull with cloud descending. Still, we happily set off up the first peak, Sgaoth Iosal, towards the descending mist. The pathless route ascends bands of slabs at a good rate of climb.

We got off to a good start with everyone going well but, just as we started to enter the cloud, I looked back to check their progress and found he was still with me but she was starting to lag behind. I slowed the pace a little but found she still wasn’t really catching up. I was surprised as they said they did a lot of ‘hiking’ back home and sounded to be quite fit and the climb really wasn’t so bad.

I asked him whether his wife was okay. He just said she was okay but ‘had not long to go’!
“Do you mean she’s pregnant?!” I asked.
“Yes, she is due in about two weeks” he affirmed.
OMG!! So… here we were… heading up into the mist, on mountains with what are fondly called ‘magnetic anomalies’, quite a few crags scattered about, I’d never been there before, and we had a heavily pregnant German lady who could drop any moment! 😮 I had thought she was quite well built but never suspected she was pregnant.

At that point, I decided we were only going to do half the round, unless the mist lifted, and descend from the col between the two halves (Bealach Garbh) to the glen. All went well at first – we found the first summit and then successfully reached the second summit of Sgaoth Aird where, for a moment, the cloud cleared momentarily and we got a great view over the cliffs straight down to the Lewis road.

Checking the map I could see we needed to follow the escarpment until the ground started to descend and then head south for the bealach. I confidently told Mr. German my navigation plan. He walked with me watching the compass. We reached the point where the descent started and headed south. Part-way down the steady slope I noticed the compass suddenly swing nearly 90 degrees clockwise. He fortunately hadn’t actually seen this happen. That meant we were either heading down Sron a Toister – a steep ridge with crags most of the way round or we were correct.

I decided we really didn’t want to head down the Sron – for one thing, it would dump us down the back of the mountain at Laxadale Lochs. Also I had seen it before and it was pretty steep and, with the crags, would be quite unpleasant in mist. I decided the new heading was the safest. Still, I couldn’t just turn 90 degrees from my current course as they knew we were supposed to already be on our heading for the bealach.

The only way I could attempt to alter our course was to do it gradually and so started to do a very wide circle to the right. Immediately Mr. German said,
“I thought we were to head south?”
Fortunately by this time we were more or less on our new heading so I just pointed him to my compass and said;
“Yes, south – look.”
He looked suspicious but said no more. Anyway, we made it back to the valley without incident to a very wet and sloshy two miles back down the glen to the road during which he twisted his ankle.

Of course, it meant I had to go back another day to do Gillaval Glas. Oh, and she didn’t have her baby on the mountain!

The nearby house of Amhuinnsuidhe – A Scotsman’s Home is His Castle!



6 responses

20 07 2012
Paul Shorrock

Oh, and I meant to mention Amhuinnsuidhe – it’s wacky, isn’t it! The first time I drove through there, I nearly turned round thinking that I had driven into the local Laird’s garden 😀


20 07 2012

I did! I thought I was trespassing and had to stop and check the map before I carried on driving down the road! Apparently it’s a hotel or B&B now but mainly aimed at the ‘wildlife-killing’ brigade so I’m not sure I’d fit in!


20 07 2012
Paul Shorrock

Nice post Carol – You’ll have to remember to carry a pair of scissors and two bits of string if you go out again with a pregnant companion (apparently that’s all the kit you need!)

If we ever meet up on a hill, I’m going to have to ask you for the story behind ‘the site that shall not be mentioned’ – there have been a couple of cryptic references on here recently, all very intriguing 🙂

Hope the recovery is coming on OK.


20 07 2012

Just the silly ex-forum who banned me and lost my great talent! 😉


20 07 2012

Seen & enjoyed this report before on the site that shall not be mentioned – shame about the claggy views would have liked to see a pic across to An Cliseam from Sgaoth Iosa.
I’ve also never seen the castle from that angle before and hadn’t realised there was a row of cottages next to it!
Many thanks Simon


20 07 2012

The Gillaval Glas round in its entirety would make a good round on a nice day and the views in the direction of Clisham would be superb. If you get a good day to spare give it a go.


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